Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Getting Started Part 2: Buying my first camera

Buying my first camera is one of the most exciting part of my photography. After a year of using a Samsung point and shoot digital camera, I started thinking of getting a more serious type of camera. I realized that my needs are not anymore met by my little but very reliable camera. The thought of controlling exposure and manually shooting is making me want a new camera that will allow me to learn. I wanted it so badly that I started researching and reading about different types of camera that fits my budget. My eyes are set on those cheaper bridge cameras that will allow me to have manual control on my exposures. I did my research, mostly on the internet, to learn about their specifications and of course their prices.

You see, I just want to learn on a budget.

I ended up getting the FUJIFILM HS20 EXR for around $420, as my first learning camera.

Choosing your first camera depends on your goals. For me, it is to learn manual shooting. Bridge cameras like the FUJIFILM XS-1, Nikon Coolpix P510 and the Canon Powershot SX50 IS are very good cameras. They are cheaper than the DSLRs but they all have the manual control that a DSLR have. Their zoom ranges are amazing. My FUJI got a 30x zoom (equivalent to 720mm telephoto lens on a DSLR); telephoto lens like that will burn holes in your pocket if you have a DSLR. But due to its smaller sensor, these cameras can be a little slow in focusing, especially in low lighting situations. Their image quality is good, but not as good as a DSLR. If you like to shoot indoors and at night, you might want to get a DSLR instead. Bridge cameras are useful if you want to learn first before jumping into the DSLR world. Or, if you just want a cheaper and an all-in-one camera with great focal length and has manual controls.

Recently, there’s a new breed of camera that is slowly catching up with the fad, they are called mirrorless cameras. They are small, lightweight, and very handy. The Panasonic and the Olympus have these cool line-ups of micro four thirds cameras in the market. The Sony has the NEX system and the Nikon released J1 and V1 in their mirrorless camera system. If you prefer a small and handy camera, this is for you. I don’t have much experience with their image quality but I believe they are at par with their entry level DSLR peers. With their size, I believe they are a good choice for a traveler and a street photographer who likes to be discreet and hates carrying heavy stuffs with them. And don’t forget that they look cool and trendy too.

Then, for just a little bit more, one can get the entry level DSLR. DSLR like the Canon 1100D and the Nikon D3100 are considered entry level cameras, but they perform very well. Their lowlight shooting capabilities are good, focusing is fairly fast and the image quality is pretty impressive. They usually came with a basic kit lens of 18-55mm, a fairly good glass but with limited focal length and an average aperture opening. It is quite a versatile glass, but as you learn more, you'll realize that what you can do with it is very limited. Once you grabbed a DSLR, you’ll start dreaming of collection of lens, sets of flashes and other expensive stuff a photographer can dream of. A DSLR will open the gate of an expensive but very enjoyable photography journey. Be warned.

Then there’s this mid-range DSLR, which performs quite like the entry level, except it came with some extra features with it. They could be a bigger LCD screen, a tilting screen that is good for shooting videos, more focus points, faster focus speed, fast burst speed, weather sealed, 3D filming capabilities, a larger viewfinder, etc. But with the same APS-C sensor size as their entry level peers, the difference in image quality is so little to negligible. It is up to you, if you think the extra perks are worth the price difference. Most of them came with the same kit lens as their entry-level peers.

Lastly, the expensive but very impressive full frame cameras. With a bigger sensor its image quality is amazing, it has super fast auto focus, great low light capabilities and an almost noise free images. Full frame cameras are the obvious choice of most professional photographers. But with these great cameras comes a hefty price tag. If you can afford its price, and the other stuff you need to buy with it, this is obviously the ultimate choice. And oh, most of them are pretty bulky too.

Choosing a camera mainly depends on your goals and obviously the size of your pocket. Each camera has their pros and cons, so do your research diligently. I started small, so I believe you can too. I suggest one should start learning photography first before buying the expensive stuff. As the cliché goes, it’s the man behind the camera and not the camera that matters. For me, I ended up buying the HS20EXR to learn manual shooting and a year later bought the Nikon D3100 as I felt I needed to upgrade to an entry level DSLR.

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